Task variation and the social network of construction trades

Brad W. Wambeke, Min Liu, Simon M. Hsiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Construction projects can be complex and managers are faced with the challenge of managing multiple trades working on a large number of interdependent tasks. When one trade or task experiences variation, defined as the time difference between what was planned and what occurred for this research, additional trades or tasks can be impacted. This can result in a disrupted project schedule and reduced productivity. A case study involving a general contractor (GC) building a $50 million, 150,000 sq ft data collection center was conducted. Both starting time and task duration variation data was collected on approximately 1,200 tasks performed by over 40 trades. A risk assessment matrix was used to determine which causes of variation posed the greatest risk to project performance. Pajek, a social network analysis software, was used to illustrate the organizational structure of the key trades throughout the project based on spatial proximity. It was found that material delivery and not having prerequisite work completed were the top two causes of starting time variation and overcommitment was the top cause of task duration variation. The study couples the variation analysis with the associated social network of trades to create a decision making system, thus, the paper's main contribution to the body of knowledge. The results of this research are repeatable and can be useful for managers in improving project performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number05014008
JournalJournal of Management in Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Construction
  • Performance
  • Risk assessment
  • Social network
  • Variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial relations
  • General Engineering
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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